Gertrude when her brother was born. Elion

Gertrude Belle Elion was born on 23rd January 1913 in New York City.

Mr. Elion, her father, received his higher education in New York City and worked as a dentist. Her mother was married to her father at the age of 19.

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Her first seven years were spent in an apartment that was adjoined to her father’s dental office and moved to the Bronx when her brother was born. Elion enjoyed learning and looked forward to pursuing a college education. She graduated from high school at 15, but due to her family’s bad financial state, her educational options were limited. Luckily, she was accepted at Hunter College, the women’s college of the City University of New York, which offered free tuition to qualified students. Grieved for her grandfather’s death from cancer, she decided to study chemistry, with the hope of contributing to the fight against cancer. Entering Hunter College in 1933, Elion graduated with a B.S. in chemistry when she was only 19.

She had gone through many challenges in getting a job after graduated, tried all possible positions but none of them fulfilled the financial needs for her ambition. Finally, with her father’s advice, she went to a pharmaceutical company at Burroughs Wellcome and she was hired as an assistant to Dr. George Hitchings, who ran a small laboratory there. During her scientific partnership with Dr.

George Hitching, they developed the first two successful drugs for the treatment of acute leukemia: Purinethol and Thioguanine. Elion’s responsibilities expanded, and she began to lead larger and larger teams of her own, discovering compounds such as allopurinol, used for the treatment of gout and to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy. Her discovery of azathioprine, which suppresses the immune system’s rejection of the foreign tissue, made kidney transplants between unrelated donors possible. More than half a million people worldwide have benefited from this discovery since 1963. Her team also attempted to create compounds which would block viral infections.

It was widely believed that any compound capable of suppressing viral activity would be toxic. Elion’s patience was rewarded with the creation of acyclovir, the world’s first successful anti-viral medication. It’s used in the treatment of chickenpox, herpes, and shingles. Gertrude Elion’s name appears on 45 patents. In 1988, she shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine with her old colleague George Hitchings and fellow researcher Sir James Black. At the time, she was one of only ten women to have won a Nobel Prize in the sciences.I’ve found that there’s a lot of icons who had contributed to the medical field through their great findings and discoveries from the webpage.

I noticed that most of the prominent figures are male, only a few are female. So, I intended to choose a lady for my assignment this time and this is one of the reasons why I chose Gertrude B. Elion. To me, Elion is very inspiring in the sense that she’s very patient and driven. When she faced the problem with finding a job after graduating, she tried many occupations like being a replacement lecturer and was also a laboratory assistant to gain more experiences. She had never tried to stop learning and throughout my readings, I found she’s very fond and keen for knowledge even though her financial state is not so good. She’s also very determined as she always tried her best in achieving his ambitions.

This made her a prominent figure as she never gave up. Her patience and determination paid off when she made great discoveries in the medical field, in finding cures and treatments.


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